Summary: The Holy Trinity, series B. A description of the transforming effects of baptism both for infants and adults.
Trinity2003 “What it Means to be Baptized”
John 3:1-17 June 15, 2003
© 2003, Rev. Robert C. Baker, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, Florida
You know, there are probably a thousand opinions about what it means to be baptized. Some, like our Baptist brothers and sisters, view baptism simply as a church ordinance, surely commanded by Christ, but a command with no apparent spiritual benefit. In other words, Jesus said do it, but baptism doesn’t really do anything for you. Others see baptism in societal terms, a religious ceremony much like a wedding or a funeral, helping people through certain major events in their lives. Others, when they think of baptism, think of the extras: the pretty lace gown, the burning candle, the smiling parents and the gurgling, and sometimes screaming, baby. And there is nothing wrong with gowns and candles and smiles and even screaming babies. No, not at all.
But, what does it really mean to be baptized? To answer that question I’d like to share with you a few important points.
First, to be baptized means being an active member of a Christian community. Our secular culture hammers home every single day of our lives our “ radical individuality”. Our society is rife with folks all touting their “rights,” their “opinions,” their “desires”. And technology, which was put into place in order to give us more time to spend with each other, now further separates us. Each one of us, it seems, is an island, each one of us exists for ourselves. But to be baptized in the Triune Name means that we have been baptized into a community—a community of believers, a family. When the water is poured over the head of an infant—like Rebecca and Michael this morning—or an adult, and as our Triune God’s Name is invoked, at that very instant that girl or boy, that man or woman, ceases being separated from God, and ceases being separated from the rest of us who believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized, too. To the crowd in Jerusalem, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. An you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39)(1).
The community created at the baptismal font exists as a family of brothers and sisters, just as a human family consists of father, mother, son and daughter. There must be love and respect in this community, just as there must be love and respect in the family. There must be contact. There must be sharing. There must be cooperation. There must be communication. There must be sitting down at the table together and eating together. We don’t exist as Christians independent of other Christians, nor can we exist as Christians for a long time independent of the Christian congregation. Do you know what characterized the early Church? Their coming together to learn, to celebrate Holy Communion, and to mutually support each other. That’s why Luke tells us in Acts chapter two: “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…They broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 46-47). Baptism means being an active member of a Christian community.
Second, to be baptized means living a Christian lifestyle. Every Tuesday morning I receive an email from the Gallup Organization. You may remember that they’re the folks who poll the nation, getting a finger on the pulse of our opinions. As part of my “Tuesday Morning Briefing” as it’s called, I was emailed the recent results of a poll conducted concerning the topic of morality in America. Interestingly, 67% of Americans think that “the state of moral values in the country as a whole” (2)is getting worse. Would you agree? Do you think morality is suffering in the US? The poll also showed that 45% of those surveyed believe that doctor-assisted suicide is morally o.k., 44% said that homosexual behavior was morally acceptable. 66% thought that there was nothing wrong with divorce, and 57%, a clear majority, thought that it was morally acceptable to have a baby out of wedlock. No wonder those polled think that morality in America is getting worse. All they have to do is look at their own answers.
I am afraid that if American churchgoers were polled, they’d probably give the same answers, and while deploring the general decline of morality in America would seek to find justification for their own immoral thoughts, words and deeds.